Wicker, Hyde-Smith, Palazzo, Kelly & Guest Continue Advocacy for Miss. Commodity

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and U.S. Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), and Michael Guest (R-Miss.) are part of a bicameral coalition encouraging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help facilitate domestic consumption of U.S. farm-raised catfish and stabilize markets.

The delegation members are among 10 lawmakers from catfish-producing states who signed a letter asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to use “Section 32,” a permanently-authorized program, to make emergency purchases of surplus U.S. commodities for distribution to domestic food assistance programs.

“Catfish producers and processors are predominantly located in rural America.  Due to historically high inflation across the economy these communities continue to feel the burden of increased prices.  Purchasing catfish will help to strengthen rural America and provide a nutritious, U.S.-grown product to families, children, and our communities,” the lawmakers wrote to Vilsack.

The letter argues Section 32 purchases would help U.S. catfish producers reduce the risk of financial insecurity resulting from sharply-climbing inventories and rapid increases in feed costs. The Section 32 program is funded through 30 percent of the previous year’s customs receipts collected by the U.S. government from imported products.

The letter is a continuation of advocacy by the Mississippi lawmakers to have Mississippi’s catfish, shrimp, and other commodities included in USDA Section 32 decisions.

U.S. Senator John Boozman organized the letter, which was also signed by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Representatives Barry Moore (R-Ala.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), and Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).

Read the letter in full here.


UPDATE 01/25/2023 - USDA Agrees to Miss. Lawmakers' Request to Purchase Catfish Products:  Members of the Mississippi congressional delegation have successfully convinced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase of up to $42 million of catfish products for distribution to various nutrition assistance programs, including charitable institutions.  USDA provided notification of the purchase approval Wednesday.

U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and U.S. Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), and Michael Guest (R-Miss.) last November signed a letter that encouraged the Agriculture Secretary to purchase farm-raised catfish through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Section 32 program, citing hardships facing the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry.  Additionally, Hyde-Smith and U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) last week wrote AMS Administrator Bruce Summers to further stress the need to approve the Section 32 purchase, stating:  “In short, there is more justification today for a sizable USDA Section 32 catfish purchase than when the request was initially delivered to AMS.”